Self love. Body love. Body confidence. Positive body image.
Words. All words.
We know we’re supposed to feel confident and love our bodies and ourselves — but do we? We can say these words and tell ourselves to feel this way but if we don’t feel it, we simply don’t feel it.
And how many of us ever get to that place? And will we be so old when we get there that we can’t even enjoy our bodies because it’s come too little too late?
How many of us have grown from beautiful and confident little girls into adults that feel any of the above? I know there are some people out there who do love and unconditionally accept themselves, but have they always been like that or did they need to do ‘the work’ to get there?
I’m 54 soon and being confident in who I am and comfortable with my body has been an ongoing saga.
From being called ‘pleasantly plump’ to ‘too skinny’ and everything in between; from having ‘the best bum’ in the school but ‘wobbly thighs’ when I was 16; and growing up with a mother who watched every single morsel of food I put in my mouth — I became a woman who has always worried that I am “not good enough” when it comes to how I look.
I don’t think it matters whether you are one of the ‘pretty’ girls or one of the ‘nerds’ or any of the other labels in between. We all have the same fears and insecurities about how we look.
And as we age and our bodies change — it still doesn’t go away.
We have babies and our skin stretches. Our perky bits start heading south. In fact, everything starts to droop a little. We accumulate more cellulite. Little veins appear where we feel they just shouldn’t be. Hairs sprout from areas we wish were still bare. Hormones run amok.
It’s a lot to come to terms with.
Just because we get married or have a long-term partner and just because we have our own daughters and grow older — the way we feel about our bodies doesn’t necessarily change.
Five years ago I wouldn’t look in a mirror that showed anything below my neck line. I’d put on weight since I hit my 40’s and I didn’t like what I saw.
When I finally took the leap and began to take charge of a body that was rapidly spiralling out of control, things changed.
I lost body fat. I gained lean muscle. I was healthier from eating a more balanced and nutritious diet. I was happier about what I saw in the mirror — but my life wasn’t happier.
I thought that my non-existent sex life in my failing marriage had been my fault. My husband didn’t find me attractive. How could he? I was weighing 26 pounds more than when we got married.
But even though I looked (for the first time in my life at the age of 50!) really amazing in shorts, I still had no sex life.
My husband and I split 3 years after my weight loss journey began.
I was still looking great but he didn’t care. He didn’t ‘see’ me. He literally looked right through me. He was never going to love me no matter how hot I might look or how toned my legs were.
But it wasn’t ever about me. I found out later that he had been sleeping with hookers for years.
Apart from a couple of internet dating flings about 18 months ago, I have been on my own since.
I have spent this time reflecting on who I am and who I want to be in the world and coming to terms with how I feel about myself and my body with no input from a male.
My spirituality and awareness of the spiritual realm has increased and I realise that one lesson I need to learn in this life is to love.
Not just to love others unconditionally and to be love, but to love myself.
I have spent a lot of my life hating my body with that hatred affecting my mood and how I feel about myself in general.
Over the past year my exercise and gym regime has slipped and I knew that my well earned muscle tone was turning to blancmange. I was back to hating myself again.
I returned to the gym with a new found determination and a muscle building program from a Personal Trainer friend.
He also gave me an eating plan based on body building principals. That eating plan was my tipping point.
After one day I decided I couldn’t do it. Initially it felt like I was failing but then I delved more into my thought processes. What I really meant was I didn’t WANT to do it and the reason why was because I didn’t want to work that hard, and at that extreme, to get an amazing body. I simply didn’t hate myself enough to eat this way!
I understood that I cannot love myself ONLY when my body looks good. That I have to learn to love my body when it isn’t looking it’s best as well.
I realised that I am happy eating the way that I do and I’m happy if I exercise and make the most of who I am.
If I am carrying an extra few pounds then so be it. I walk. I’m back doing regular weight training. I’m eating a balanced and nutritious diet and if that means I will never be the weight I was two years ago ever again — that’s okay with me.
I have reached a place of comfort and contentment with who I am and what I look like.
I will never have my 25 year old body back. I may never have my 50 year old body back but the body I do have is healthy, well and supports me in what I want to do in my life.
And should I ever find a partner to share my life with he must love me for me — not whether I have amazing legs or a flat stomach. He will need to love me WITH my little muffin top.
And remember, you will never be loved for how you look. Never.
My husband couldn’t love me when I was overweight. He couldn’t love me when I was slim and toned. And that was about him, not me.
In the line of work I do I see women the same age as myself exercising themselves into the ground or eating very little in an attempt to try to lose weight and regain their youthful bodies.
I tell my clients they are beautiful and to strive for perfection is unrealistic; that we must learn to accept our changing bodies. Yet, this was the pressure I was putting on myself!
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be the best version of ourselves that we can be, but do it in a way that makes you happy.
I am happy going to the gym 4 times a week and eating the way I do. I am happy walking.
I am not happy eating chicken for morning tea or counting how many pieces of broccoli I am allowed. That makes me very unhappy and no matter how much I would like to look amazing again, I’m not prepared to do it so I must accept that about myself and accept, because of it, I won’t have the body of a Victoria’s Secret model. And, really, does it matter?
So I would ask you to ponder on what makes you happy? What can you live with? Are you happier sharing a bottle of wine on a Saturday night with a friend or would you prefer a flat stomach? You have a choice.
Whatever you choose to be, own it, and here’s to being the best version of you you can be without starving yourself, working your butt into the ground at the gym doing exercise you hate or resorting to surgery.
Find your sweet spot and your happy place.
Originally published at medium.com